Pronouncing Paella - UK vs. US


On a recent episode of Top Chef the judges had an aumsing discussion of how to pronounce paella. For me, it should be /pajeja/ (pie-ey-a)...just like it is in (Latin American) Spanish, but Toby Young from the U.K. was happy to pronounce it with an /l/.

Who's right? Most of the Americans agree it's to use the authentic Spanish (or at least Latin American Spanish) pronunciation, but Toby countered that no one pronounces Mexico as /mehiko/, but as Anglicized /mɛksɨko/ - good one Toby.

Although I do tend to attempt authentic Spanish pronunciation of words, the argument points out that this is more of a U.S. custom than a U.K. one. However, Toby's point about the pronunciation of Mexico points out that there are lexical exceptions even to this rule. Some Spanish words (e.g. canyon, Mexico, Argentina not to mention Arizona, Colorado, Montana, rodeo) are so ingrained into English that even Americans have nativized the pronunciation.

It is good etiquette these days to pronounce foreign words as close to their original pronunciation as possible. For instance, Toby also commented that no one in English says Barcelona with a Spanish "th" /θ/, but of of his colleagues said she did. Ironically though, in Catalan, Barcelona (and Barcelona IS In Catalonia) may actually have an /s/. So...when playing this game, be sure you do have all the facts or the ghost of Toby Young may laugh in your face.